HC Deb 22 June 1982 vol 26 cc150-2
Q1. Mr. Lawrence

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 22 June.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today. Later this afternoon I shall depart for New York to attend the United Nations second special session on disarmament.

Mr. Lawrence

Since I have had the good fortune to draw Question No. 1 today, may I take this happy opportunity to ask my right hon. Friend if she will convey to Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales our feeling of joy and the warm congratulations of the whole House on the birth of the heir apparent?

Mr. William Hamilton


Mr. Cryer

You grovelling sycophant.

The Prime Minister

With great pleasure. I believe that the whole nation shares in the happiness of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the happiness of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and also of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I understand that we shall have an opportunity to say so, possibly on Thursday.

Dr. Owen

Will the Prime Minister, in view of the serious fighting between Syria and Israel that is reported today, seek the opportunity when she sees President Reagan to make the offer that Britain will play a part in any United Nations peacekeeping role in the Lebanon, particularly if the United States could also be persuaded to play a part?

The Prime Minister

I shall hope and expect to discuss this subject with the President when I see him tomorrow. I do not think, at the moment, that I could make the offer that Britain would play a part in a peacekeeping role in the Lebanon. We are already playing a part in the multinational force in Sinai. It would be unwise to make further promises in view of our already extended commitment.

Mr. Hannam

Does my right hon. Friend agree that at a time when this country has regained its pride and confidence, it is sad that certain unions are calling out their members on crippling strikes that can only undermine the national recovery?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, I have never supported any strikes and I hope that even at this late hour —

Mr. Lofthouse


The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, I do not believe that people who go on strike in this country have a legitimate cause. Throughout the period of the Labour Government and this one, I have never supported any strikes in this country. I hope that, even at this late hour, those who are contemplating going on strike will realise that those they are harming are their fellow citizens.

Mr. Foot

May I join in offering the good wishes which the right hon. Lady offered on behalf, I am sure, of the whole House to the Royal Family on the news yesterday? I am glad that the House will have the opportunity to discuss the matter.

May I ask the right hon. Lady whether she has had a chance to study the extremely serious unemployment figures that are published today? They are the most serious domestic news for the nation. Is it not a fact that these seasonally adjusted figures show that we are back to the worst trend of last year— [Interruption.] No, it is not only school leavers. It is the seasonally adjusted figure. Can the right hon. Lady tell us what is the prospect for the future that she sees with these figures?

The Prime Minister

The unemployment figures are unwelcome. We have a number of school leavers in this month's figures. If the right hon. Gentleman studies the international figures on a quarterly basis he will see that a number of countries in Europe, quarter by quarter, also experienced an unusually greater increase in unemploy-ment. We believe that in this country this was probably due to the increase in interest rates that occurred, partly because of the exchange rate, at the end of last autumn. The forward indicators are now giving hope for better things and for a continuing of economic recovery.

Mr. Foot

Does not the right hon. Lady think that part of the reason for these extremely serious unemployment figures, and the increase, is the fall in industrial production and the fall in house building and in other forms of activity? I know that the right hon. Lady always refuses to make prophecies on this matter, but can she tell us on what assumptions the Government are acting in deciding how long unemployment will continue at this rate?

The Prime Minister

Any assumptions that we have made have already been published, not so much as assumptions, but as working practices for those who have to calculate any benefits that are due. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the figures he will find that economic activity is above the levels of last spring. Industrial and manufacturing output is up 2 per cent. from spring 1981 and the prospect is for resumed and continued recovery. This is supported by almost all independent assessment. The cyclical indicators have, for a while, suggested—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman asked me, and I naturally expect to do him the courtesy of answering his question. The cyclical indicators have for a while suggested that there would be a plateau in the first half of 1982. They have also implied a subsequent continuation in the recovery.

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